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Nahant: Poetry by the Sea




John Greenleaf WhittierJOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER        (1807 – 1892) lived in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and was one of the most admired and beloved American poets of the nineteenth century. His “Snow Bound: A Winter Idyll” was a best selling post Civil War literary phenomenon.  His most famous visit to Nahant occurred in summer of 1864, when he was credited with persuading potential Presidential candidate General John C. Fremont not to run, and thus preserving Abraham Lincoln’s chances for re-election.  Although the Fremont family summered next door to the Longfellows, the two poets probably didn’t spend much time together on Nahant.  Nonetheless, in his poem “Nahant,” Whittier extols Nahant’s beauty and declares it the greatest paradise on earth.






Nahant, thy beach is beautiful! –
     A dim line through the tossing waves,
Along whose verge the spectre gull
     Her thin and snowy plumage laves –
What time the Summer’s greenness lingers
     Within thy sunned and sheltered nooks,
And the green vine with twining fingers
     Creeps up and down thy hanging rocks!
Around – the blue and level main –
     Above – a sunshine rich, as fell,
Bright’ning of old, with golden rain,
     The isle Apollo loved so well!–
And far off, dim and beautiful
The snow-white sail and graceful hull,
     Slow dipping to the billow’s swell.
Bright spot! – The Isles of Greece may share
The flowery earth – the gentle air;– 
The orange-bough may blossom well
In warm Bermuda’s sunniest dell;–
But fairer shores and brighter waters,
Gazed on by purer, lovelier daughters,
     Beneath the light of kindlier skies,
The wanderer to the farthest bound
Of people Earth hath never found
     Than thine – New England’s Paradise!


from: Henry Cabot Lodge  An Historical Address Delivered at the Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Nahant  (Town of Nahant) 1904.